Bitch-slap! Being an Actor

This week: Acting is More Than Giving Good Face

O.K. Stop the blog key banging. We’ve got an emergency folks. Two souls lost on the meaning of what is to be an actor.

Now yes, I gave one lengthy bitch-slap chapter on this in ACTING: Make It Your Business but for those not familiar, like the persons below, with my book and/or what it means to be an actor here’s a Reader’s Digest variant.

Recently via Facebook I received the following misguided missive:

“Do I have the look for acting, I can act just needa know if u c it. Thanx”

His picture:

Really? A self-taken cell phone photo, via a mirror, as your “head shot”. Give me a fucking break. But let’s get beyond that for now. My response to the young man who cell-phoned his countenance and crashed was thus:

“I can’t answer your question. Why? Let me give you a question in return. By looking at a picture of a car can you tell if it will perform well? Or would you know better by taking the car for a test drive?

Acting is more than looks.”

Add to this an e-mail I received several days later from a potential fool for folly that including the following:

I want to get more involved with my acting and become famous.

Oh no you didn’t just write that to me. You’re seeking fame?

I will not rehash here the 16 pages of “Being an Actor – A Tough Love” which is Chapter Two in AMIYB. Most of you have read my rants on misguided fools who believe that being an actor entails; looks, celebrity and the ability to intake oxygen. If you’re one of those people who think being an actor is just saying words given to you and having a pretty face OR you’re aiming your spot light on this profession so that you can walk a red carpet while the Rivers’ girls dish  your duds then my advice to you; get the hell out of the way of the serious artists who train constantly to better themselves; fight for every audition opportunity; and know that being an actor is not about eating a cow’s rectum on a reality program. You’re road kill. Blocking the journey of others.

One of my students who recently moved to New York stated that she was dismayed by the great number of people in New York who claim to be actors but at ages 30ish to 40-something have nothing more on their resume than a litany of background and/or showcase credits accompanied by lack of sincere training. I do not have a disagreement with her on this. Daily, via freak-show-like head shots and poorly formatted resumes I see the waste cases that are doing nothing more than keeping the U.S. Postal Service from going under.

Yes, I’m bitchy here. Yes, I’m annoyed. Why? Maybe it’s low blood sugar from skipping lunch. But more than likely it’s because I witness far too many who aspire to be actors without investing fully and thoughtfully into the craft and business of being an actor. I often wonder do these mission misfits do the same in their civilian job searches? Do they think that working a temp job at a computer is more about being pretty than skill while painstakingly pick-n-pecking at the keyboard at a whizzing five words per minute?

For actors of similar thinking possessing cheap, poorly photographed head shots and think that having bubbly breasts (or a chiseled chest) and a sensual smile will either get you an audition or agent; stop treating the career of acting as if it were a hobby. Leave that to the community theater warriors. Get real or get out. You’re wasting money. You’re wasting time. You have one life. Get serious about living the gift given you. Know fully what it means to be an actor. Listen to the universe if what you’re getting in return is a long, ongoing deafening silence to your attempts for being an actor. Fix what is wrong or aim your sights on something else which will provide you food, shelter and security.

Not everyone with an inclination or appreciation of the performing arts can be an actor just as not everyone who appreciates electricity can be a nuclear physicist.

O.K.; got that out of my system. Anyone up for a piece of pie?

My Best,

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit


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